She Puts On A Brave Face, But Attacks On Fani Willis Must Be Taking A Toll

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is sworn in to testify during a hearing in the case of the State of Georgia v. Donald John Trump at the Fulton County Courthouse on February 15, 2024, in Atlanta, Georgia. | Source: Pool / Getty

Last Wednesday and Thursday, there was a two-day evidentiary hearing involving Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis (DA Willis) and Nathan Wade, the special prosecutor she assigned to the election interference case against former President Donald Trump and more than a dozen co-defendants. The hearing was to determine if Willis and Wade would be removed over allegations the two had a personal relationship and that Willis profited financially from that relationship.

Let me state that I was surprised the hearing was televised; I assumed that by virtue of who she was, proceedings would be private. But, when you are a public official, you live in a fishbowl. That being said, I want to share several observations about DA Willis’ testimony:

First, as difficult as this moment must have been, it was important that DA Willis spoke up and defended herself. In the absence of clarity, many people form their own conclusions and those conclusions aren’t always in our favor. She needed to speak. She needed to share her perspective and contextualize what did and what didn’t happen.
Second, while I think it was important for DA Willis to speak, I didn’t know what to expect. Quite frankly, I was pleasantly surprised with how she handled herself. She didn’t come into the courtroom bowed down and defeated; she came in with something to prove and the courage to say what she believed needed to be said. Willis controlled the narrative about herself and handled the opposing attorneys well. She didn’t allow them to pigeonhole her into strict “yes” or “no” responses but offered the context that the nation needed.
Next, when I coach clients around how to prepare for media interviews or high-stakes presentations, I tell them that every interview or public appearance they accept – and they should be careful which ones they accept – is an opportunity to share their message. The purpose of the interview then is not just to answer the questions asked, but to advance one’s message. DA Willis understood the assignment. It’s unclear how much media training she’s had or if how she handled herself was a reflection of her personality, but she did a phenomenal job asserting her truth.
Fourth, I believe DA Willis should either not have entered a romantic relationship with Mr. Wade or released him from the case once they became involved. The stakes of this case have always been too high to allow distractions or vulnerabilities. To be clear, her opponents were always going to look for something to invalidate her case against them. Of course, there was going to be resistance to prosecuting a former president, taking his mugshot and doing so as a Black woman who navigates the terrains of race, gender and class. This backdrop underscores the need to operate carefully and judiciously.

Source: Pool / Getty

In closing, I want to acknowledge that Black women are often complimented for handling ourselves well under pressure. When we experience scrutiny and maintain composure, we are applauded. There will be people who review DA Willis’ testimony and praise her, but I am clear that this experience (of investigating former President Trump and then being publicly questioned about her personal and romantic relationship with Mr. Wade) must have an adverse impact on her.

She testified that 2021 was a lonely year, and I can only imagine. Whenever you take on a role like of this nature, you are going to gain enemies and lose friends. But outside of the stress of the job, the investigation into her relationship with Mr. Wade must be taking a toll. There were moments during the evidentiary hearing when she looked uncomfortable, although she put on a brave face. I’m reminded that just because a person handles themselves well doesn’t mean they aren’t paying a high cost; and that cost isn’t always discernable to the naked eye. The body knows and as they say, it keeps score.

So, what now? I believe Judge Scott McAfee, who presided over the hearing, was gracious to Willis. He appeared mindful of the sensitivity of the case and managed his courtroom well. And I still believe her relationship with Wade has become a distraction. It’s unclear whether she will be permitted to remain on this case. Regardless of what happens, from here, Willis must focus on repairing damage to her reputation and salvaging her career. After all, the district attorney still faces investigations by state legislators, county commissioners and possibly federal officials. Despite this hearing, she has a long road ahead of her, and the half has yet to be told.

Jennifer R. Farmer is the founder of Spotlight PR LLC and the author of “First and Only: A Black Woman’s Guide to Thriving at Work and in Life.”


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The post She Puts On A Brave Face, But Attacks On Fani Willis Must Be Taking A Toll appeared first on NewsOne.

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